What they're saying in Carolina

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A collection of links from a Panthers perspective leading into ESPN's "Monday Night Football" game between New England and Carolina:

The buzz can be felt in Charlotte: ESPN .com NFL Nation reporter David Newton, who covers the Panthers, writes on the excitement in the city. "Not every game gets hyped like this one, and the city is abuzz about it. The players are trying to keep things in perspective, but they feel it."

A big game no one saw coming: Tom Sorensen, a columnist for the Charlotte Observer, sets the scene for the highly anticipated Monday night matchup. "This weekend might have been the first in Charlotte’s NFL history in which fans asked, 'Is Monday ever going to come?' ... Games such as this are common in New England; the Patriots host Denver next week and the Boston Red Sox clinched the World Series there. But we don’t often get them." Sorensen also picks a Panthers win.

Newton says Carolinas 'need this more than anything': The Asheville Citizen Times previews the matchup and looks back on Panthers quarterback Cam Newton's remarks from earlier in the week on the importance of the game for the region. "For the past couple of years, we know it, the Carolina Panthers haven't been the hot topic or the hot thing in the league," Newton said.

Relevance gets a test: Joe Person, the beat reporter covering the Panthers for the Charlotte Observer, highlights the theme of coach Ron Rivera talking about the team striving for relevance. "If Carolina knocks off the Patriots, Rivera will need to swap 'relevant' for a different adjective, maybe 'playoff-bound,'" Person writes.

Kuechly sits down with Tirico: In a video now posted on ESPN.com, play-by-play man Mike Tirico sits down with Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, who talks about how one of the challenges of facing a quarterback like Tom Brady is his ability to change plays at the line of scrimmage based on the defensive look. "We have to do a good of not showing stuff," he said.

Gruden tabs secondary as Legion of Whom: Scott Fowler, a columnist for the Charlotte Observer, talks to ESPN "Monday Night Football" analyst Jon Gruden about the Panthers. One comment from Gruden that caught the eye was his nickname for the Panthers' secondary -- the Legion of Whom. "I have no idea who those guys in the secondary are, but they are really playing," Gruden says.

Preparing to face Tom Brady: In a piece appearing in the Raleigh News & Observer, Jonathan Jones talks to Panthers defenders about the anticipation of facing Brady. "You’ve got your hands full as soon as you hear [his name],” Panthers free safety Mike Mitchell said. “He’s one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game.”